China’s CityBowl League heads into summer with Hangzhou on top

The CityBowl League in China opened its 2016 season in April and now heads into summer after 13 games and the release of its summer rankings. The games featured some fierce rivalries, and also some team debuts. With a convincing victory over the Suzhou Blue Knights in their annual Paradise Bowl, the Hangzhou Ospreys now sit atop the rankings and are the favorites to reach the season final.

Apr 9: Shenyang Hunters 20-12 Dalian Poseidon

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In the season opener on April 9, the Shenyang Hunters came back after trailing in the first half and defeated the Dalian Poseidon with a score of 20-12.

The Hunters started the game in stunning fashion, forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff return, then Dominick Phillips picked up the ball and took it all the way for a touchdown to go up 8-0. In the next drive, their intercepted a pass and threatened to score again. Poseidon’s good defense stopped Shenyang’s fourth down attempt in the red zone, then the speedy Yang Guang surprised the Hunters with an explosive 55-yard reverse touchdown run. At the end of the second quarter, after a botched punt by the Hunters, Dalian quarterback Wu Peng found wide receiver Xie Yilang for an 11-yard touchdown to take the halftime lead at 12-8.

Coming out of halftime, the Hunters adjusted to a more cautious approach and the result did not disappoint. Their opening drive of the half ate up the entire third quarter and ended up with a 1-yard rushing touchdown from the fullback. The Hunters forced a fumble again on the ensuing kickoff and got another touchdown from running back Mi Chuang to extend the lead to a full score. Shortly after, Wu Peng threw his third interception of the game for Dalian and in turn sealed the victory for the Hunters.

May 14: Hangzhou Ospreys 28-20 Suzhou Blue Knights

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The biggest game of the season so far in  the CityBowl league, the Paradise Bowl, is an annual rivalry set up between the Hangzhou Ospreys and Suzhou Blue Knights. The Ospreys lost to the Blue Knights last season and are determined to take revenge in their home opener.

Both teams traded punches in the first half. Blue Knights receiver Chen Kai leaped high to catch a deep pass in front of the cornerback, then raced past four defenders for a 45-yard touchdown in the opening drive. Later in the first quarter, the Ospreys blocked a punt inside the 20 and took advantage to score a 20-yard run with running back Shan Xiaotong. Suzhou would score with Chen Kai again early in the second quarter, this time on a team signature 13-yard reverse run. The touchdown put the Blue Knights up 12-8 going into halftime.

The Ospreys engineered a 65-yard scoring drive to start the second half, capping off with a short touchdown run by Sun Baoluo. The Blue Knights muffed the next kickoff and the Ospreys again scored on a quarterback draw by He Xin to extend the lead to 22-12. After an interception inside their red zone, the Ospreys switched to a high tempo no-huddle offense rarely seen among Chinese teams and destroyed the opponent’s defense. He Xin scored again on a quarterback bootleg and the lead grew to 28-12. Although a couple of unnecessary penalties from the Ospreys afterwards helped a Blue Knights touchdown, eventually there wasn’t enough time left for Suzhou to finish the game-tying drive.

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Other game results

In League:

Apr 17 Suzhou Blue Knights 22-12 Nanjing Emperors
Apr 30 Urumqi Wranglers 0-38 Shihezi Pioneers (8-on-8)
May 14 Wuhan Griffins 14-46 Chengdu Mustangs
May 28 Wuhan Griffins 46-0 Changsha Revolutionaries (8-on-8)
Jun 10 Suzhou Blue Knights 6-0 Shenyang Hunters
Jun 18 Nanchang Gun Cavalry 22-46 Hangzhou Ospreys
Jun 18 Chengdu Mustangs 22-12 Wuhan Griffins
Jun 18 Shenzhen Buffalos 22-24 Guangzhou Goats
Jun 18 Tianjin Pirates 12-0 Shijiazhuang Liberators
Jun 25 Jiaxing Hornets 24-12 Wenzhou Redbucks (8-on-8)
Jul 2 Tianjin Black Sails 12-32 Beijing Cyclones

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Out of League:

Apr 23 Beijing Iron Brothers 14-2 Tianjin Pirates
May 28 Fudan Dragoons 6-0 Nanjing Emperors
Jun 5 Guangzhou Goats 26-0 Zhuhai Berserkers
Jun 18 Nanjing Emperors 32-14 Hefei Sarcosuchus

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Hangzhou and Suzhou lead CityBowl rankings

The CityBowl League employs an NCAA-BCS style system for the team rankings. The Hangzhou Ospreys took first in all three major categories, and head into summer with a lot of confidence. With the only loss being a quality loss, the Suzhou Blue Knights beat out the Chengdu Mustangs for 2nd place. The defending champion Beijing Cyclones suffered from a lack of games despite good reports from and were only able to take a 4th place ranking. The Shenyang Hunters, Guangzhou Goats, Wuhan Griffins and Nanjing Emperors are in 5th to 8th place respectively.

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Brian Zhao keenly follows and writes about American football in China, and particularly helps with the officiating aspect for leagues and teams over there. He manages the ChinaBlitz blog to report news and developments from local grassroot teams.